Last month’s post was written when we were in the midst of the worst dry spell (perhaps drought) in many years, with some farmers saying that they had gone about two months without rain. August still wound up with about an inch less rain than the long-term average but thanks to several T-storms and torrential (if brief) downpours the scenery has changed for the better. Lawns that were parched brown and crunched underfoot–my wife said she could see puffs of dust coming up wherever I set down my foot–are now green and lawnmowers, unheard for over a month, are now running again. In some cases the grass has made such a comeback that you’d never know it was brown just a few weeks ago.
Such is not the case with some trees, mostly small ones growing where there’s usually ample moisture–and therefore shallow root systems–but the ash trees around here really took a beating, in many cases shedding all their leaves. This is the puzzle and a very suspicious development, especially with the Emerald ash borer, a devastating insect that kills ash trees, not far away. The infestation map for NY state indicates that the borer isn’t any closer than the Syracuse/Utica regions, but it was confirmed several years ago in the Ontario county right across the river from here. Since borer beetles can fly I’m not sure what would prevent them from making the one-mile trip across the St. Lawrence River. If it isn’t due to the Emerald ash borer, I’d like to know why a large ash tree at a friend’s place near here lost all it’s leaves in August while other deciduous species including maple and oak trees appear entirely normal. Just because the borer hasn’t been confirmed in Northern NY doesn’t mean it’s not here… The state did put up pheromone traps here at Oak Point looking for the borer but that was several years ago.
Almost 100 years ago we lost almost all the chestnut trees in the Northeast due to the Chestnut blight, then it was the elm trees due to Dutch elm disease. I’m old enough to remember a few of the last chestnut trees in Southern Connecticut, remember collecting chestnuts from under one, and I watched the row of elm trees lining both sides of the road leading to Miner Institute die one by one until none was left. Now I fear that our ash trees aren’t long from the same fate.